Laws like PIPA & SOPA will kill art

Critics argue the proposed legislation is heavy-handed and opens the door to government censorship.

By Brendan Tyndall
[contributor]

In protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), on Jan. 18, Wikipedia cut access to its English language page for 24 hours in an effort to raise awareness of the proposed bill, which it saw as not only extremely damaging to its organization’s existence, but as something that had the potential to ruin the thing we love most about the internet: its vast supply of free knowledge and art, and the ability to distribute and share it with others through platforms like Facebook, YouTube, MegaUpload, Flickr and Twitter. Luckily, for the sake of Internet users and artists everywhere, SOPA was repelled on January 20.

The bill, which was proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives, aimed to impose mandatory penalties for any foreign website distributing copyrighted U.S. material. Rather than targeting users who upload copyrighted content, the bill proposed to sanction the hosting website itself, without any sort of court proceedings to take place.  Any site or company associated with the offending site, or even search directories that link to the site would’ve also faced the same sanctions. What’s more shocking is that the conditions of the vaguely worded bill would’ve applied to any site where users are able to upload their own content, which in turn would’ve have catastrophic results on the way we distribute and consume art.

Supporters of SOPA are mainly those involved in the distribution end of the music and movie industries. What these companies are trying to do is to make the Internet more like the radio or television, where the flow of content is dictated by the production companies rather than by the masses.

The Internet is the one place where the user should be generating the content, not the massive corporations who hoard most of what little money there is to be made in the arts business. What these companies fail to realize is that people being aware of art they otherwise would never find, something made possible by it being shared freely on the internet, is better than work going unnoticed. This wider exposure no doubt leads to more fans in the long run. Without the free exposure afforded by the Internet, simply put, today’s artists would be missing out on the most effective way for them to easily distribute their content.

The companies supporting SOPA argue that online piracy takes money away from the music, book and film industry. What these corporations need to realize is that by saturating the market with crap and not offering people any alternative choices, as well as charging way too much money for this crap, major record labels and film production studios are forcing people to pirate music, as it is the only affordable way for people to consume the art they want.

In a world where the major labels control the airwaves, television screens and movie screens, and massive corporations that are completely removed from the artistic process control what content gets through to the masses, an internet where art can be shared freely and openly is necessary for art to prosper.

Thankfully, SOPA did not pass, no doubt a result of protest from organizations like Wikipedia. However, if this is an indication of how the future of the Internet will look, citizens, as well as independent musicians, filmmakers, writers and artists have good reason to be afraid.

We must follow Wikipedia’s lead and do what we can do ensure that in the future other bills like SOPA are not passed. The Internet should be a place where art and knowledge can be shared freely and openly without fear of repercussion.

 


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